Author's note: The idea behind this story has been rolling around in my mind for ages now, but I was never satisfied with how it translated to paper. This time, though, I think I got it right. I wanted to give some insight as to my theories about Jack's past, where he's from, and just how he got to be the way he is, with all his odd talents and attributes.

And; I wish they'd kept Anamaria as a character in movies two and three. She had so much potential.


Origins

The sound of the old Spanish lullaby that her mother used to hum to her at night, so oddly misplaced here among the hollow rustle and boom of the waves, among the familiar creak of the ship and the snores of the sailors below deck and the still fathomless depths of the night—the sound of that lullaby on a stranger's lips was enough to wrench Anamaria to a halt.

She listened, questing for its source; momentarily, it seemed as though the song came from nowhere, was spun from nothing but the wind's lonely breath high up amid the rigging. Then, after a frustrating disorienting instant, the world resolved itself back into sense and Anamaria realized that the quiet whistling was issuing from somewhere overhead. She glanced up, but nothing and no one interrupted the strong straight lines of the masts, surging upward into the sky. The crow's nest, then, she assumed.

Absently, unthinkingly, she climbed the rigging; the spare, haunting tune echoed around her, in the air and in her memory. She reached the top of the mainmast and pulled herself into the crow's nest, only to gasp, "Jack!" when she almost landed on him.

He did not seem surprised, turning his head to gaze at her out of eyes as secretive and silent as the night surrounding them, continuing to whistle despite the interruption. She joined him, supplying words for the melody until the last verse, when suddenly her memory gave out and she could no longer recall what to sing. The final few notes of the lullaby hung unaccompanied in the air before spiraling away into nonexistence.

For a long time, neither of them spoke.

Then: "Jack?" (Anamaria cursed the thin wavering sound of unshed tears that whispered among the undertones of her voice.)

"Mmm?"

She asked, thinking of home, "Where are you from?"

The silence after her question was too long; she glanced up, finally, jarred by his lack of answer, to see him watching her. She could not tell if the dull glow in his eyes was a result of the mostly-empty bottle beside him or if it was something else—curiosity, puzzlement, a peculiar appraising uncertainty.

He took a deep breath. When he responded, his voice was hesitant, a confessor's, and it rasped harshly in the stillness. "I was born under the name Juan Carlos Cortés-Rodriguez Belden, the son of a Spanish duke and an English noblewoman. We owned an hacienda just outside of Caracas. We were very wealthy, very influential." He refused to look at her, drawing another breath as if to continue; but then something flitted across his face, and he merely loosed it once more in a long controlled sigh.

She stared, amazed and speechless. She searched his face for a hint of Spanish blood, and found it, faintly, around the dark eloquent eyes, the elegant long-fingered hands. And then, abruptly, everything that had mystified her about him for so long started to settle into place:

His ability to call up the charm of a courtesan at a moment's notice.

His fluency in and extensive knowledge about Spanish and Spanish culture.

His impressive and motley collection of talents, from dancing to gambling to pick-pocketing to fighting to singing.

His taste for all things rich or expensive: wine, women, clothing, jewelry.

His fanciful and vast vocabulary.

His capacity for reading and writing and doing arithmetic, which far exceeded any self-educated sailor's.

Jack glanced over at her at last, took in her astonished expression. His laughter, echoing out into the thin cold air, had a sharp bitter edge to it.

"Aye," he murmured, taking a swig of rum from the bottle at his side. "Hard to believe, eh?"

His eyes darkened and, far below, the waves rolled, restless and melancholy, against the sides of the ship.